Jewish Persecution: 1 CE – Today, part 30

Jews had been in the land north of Spain and Italy since the 1st century. They arrived with the first Roman settlers and stayed when the first Arianist Christian Germanic tribes defeated their Roman Catholic enemies. A semi-mythic line was founded by a Frankish queen, and allegedly the sea god Neptune, to produce Clovis I the Merovingian. He conquered what remained of Roman power in Gaul and defeated (or united!) all the Frankish tribes. Clovis was crowned King of All Franks in 509 CE. He is considered the Father of France for this achievement. 

Clovis was born a pagan, converted to the Arianism more common among his people, and the converted again to the Catholic faith of his Visigothic wife. This brought him into a strong alliance with Pope Gregory I. At the First Council of Orleans, Clovis distinctly linked the Church and the Crown. Over time, the Catholic Church and Frankish kingdom would go from entwined to enmeshed. Upon his death in 511, Clovis willed the kingdom to be divided into four kingdoms for his four sons to rule. They were not divided along cultural, language, or geographic boundaries, but on ensuring fair equal incomes to each royal heir. 

His last surviving heir Clotaire I reunited the kingdom once again in 550, adding the region of Burgundy for good measure. When he died the kingdom boundaries were newly drawn for his four sons. This is a fascinating alternative to oldest son solitary reign, but it was a disordered and chaotic one. The complex tax system of Rome was replaced with simple tolls and market fees. Lords were awarded landed in exchange for the responsibility of raising an army in time of need, and being self sufficient in all others. Frankish kingdoms were feudalist. Trade was in luxury goods like jewels, handled by Jewish merchants.

Two of Clotaire’s sons married a pair of Visigothic Spanish princess sisters, Brunhilda and Gaswintha. Sigeburt seems to have loved Brunhilda, but when Galswintha told Chilperec she didn’t approve of his concubines, he and his favorite concubine Ferdegund plotted to have her murdered. Brunhilda and Ferdegund were in a feud for the next half century. Their combined alleged assassination body count is well into the hundreds and includes a dozen kings and kings’ heirs, including Sigeburt and Chilperec. Ferdegund died first of natural causes, while Brunhilda lived long enough to be executed horribly in her seventies by Ferdegund’s son Clotaire II. 

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